Like many Maritime kids, I grew up knowing (and loving) the Ganong name. Ganong Bros. has been making chocolate in New Brunswick for more than 100 years. They’re known around the world for their Pal-o-mine bars and boxes of assorted chocolates.
In Saint Stephen, New Brunswick, the place where it all started, The Chocolate Museum welcomes more than 16,000 people a year to learn more about chocolate and the history of Ganong. The history lesson starts back with the Myans and Aztecs, who used cocoa beans as currency.
It’s an extensive education, and the lessons are paired with chocolates in every room. We learned the history of the cocoa bean over milk chocolate caramels and coconut cremes. We snacked on chocolate truffles while marvelling over old footage of hand dippers at work, and nibbled chocolate cherries while viewing the evolution of chocolate boxes.
When boxes of chocolates were first introduced, they came in small, pocket sized cartons that cost two weeks worth of wages. The size and shape of the box was made to fit in a man’s jacket pocket, so he could hide it and present it to his sweetheart. Boxes slowly grew bigger as the price of chocolate fell after WWII.
We felt less guilty about our indulgence after reading about Albert Ganong. The son of one of the founding Ganong brothers, and former president of Ganong, is said to have eaten 3lbs of chocolate a day, all in the name of quality control.
It was fascinating to see long time staff talk about their years at Ganong and hear their passion for the craft in their voice. At one time, all Ganong chocolates were hand dipped, and those dippers would train for more than three years to be able to shape, dip, and hand pattern an assortment of chocolates, all in one quick, fluid movement.
Ganong held their last chocolate school in the 1960s, but two graduates from that program still work at the museum, hand crafting chocolates to the delight of visitors and selling those specialty boxes in the shop next door. We raced against a clock – and each other – to see how quickly we could pack a box of chocolates. Hand packed boxes take the Ganong staff 17 seconds. It took us a little longer…
Ganong had such an impact that, in 2000, Saint Stephen was named the Chocolate Capital of Canada. For the past 31 years the town has also been home to Chocolate Fest, a week long celebration of the history (and taste) of chocolate. This year, it takes place August 1 – August 8!
Explore The Chocolate Museum with us in the short video below:
The Chocolate Museum
73 Milltown Blvd.
St. Stephen, NB
Our trip was made possible through financial support from New Brunswick Tourism. We chose our final itinerary, and are excited to share our favourite New Brunswick adventures from our recent trip with you here on The Local Traveler.